As Olympic Trials Near, Women's Boxing Heats Up
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish.
Women's boxing will be an Olympic sport for the first time in this summer's games. Among those competing to be part of the U.S. team in London, Tyrieshia Douglas of Baltimore. When she was 16, Douglas was arrested for fighting. As she remembers it, her juvenile court judge recommended she take up boxing. Now she's 23, 112 pounds and aiming for gold.
TYRIESHIA DOUGLAS: Boxing is my mother and my father.
(SOUNDBITE OF PUNCHING)
T. DOUGLAS: Boxing is my brother and my sister. Boxing make love to me. Boxing kiss me.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: You should keep that hand up, OK?
T. DOUGLAS: So, honestly, boxing is the love of my life.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I have Tyrieshia Douglas and Warren Jenkins.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Round two, ring two.
T. DOUGLAS: With boxing, you can't be nice.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: And mouth gear. You got your mouth gear on?
T. DOUGLAS: So I'm mean. I know I'm a woman, but when the bell rings, I'm like a monster.
(SOUNDBITE OF A BELL)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Get your money's worth. Your three is money, hear? That's the money hand. There you - oh, beautiful. Beautiful. Let's go. OK. All right. Oh, nice. Do it again.
(SOUNDBITE OF DOOR OPENING)
T. DOUGLAS: When I was younger, I wanted to have a big butt and big boobs. I wanted to be the average girl. People used to always say that women shouldn't have big arms, shouldn't have broad shoulders. They'd be like, don't wear that T-shirt. You look too strong. Your outfit is cute, but you look like you're about to break your high heel. And I'd be like, what? It's against the rules to have as many muscles as I have.
DEVON DOUGLAS: I'm Devon Douglas, Tyriesha's oldest brother.
T. DOUGLAS: This is my brother that I live with.
D. DOUGLAS: It's me, then it's her, and then there's Ronte. And then there's Antoine, then there's Desire.
T. DOUGLAS: That is Dorshe(ph) the dog. Sit down. She's a blue pit.
D. DOUGLAS: We were on foster care, then we got broke up. And some of my friends told me, they were like, your sister box. I was like, my sister box? She was serious long enough to box? They were like, well, the fight only lasted about a minute.
T. DOUGLAS: No.
D. DOUGLAS: And they said she felt sorry for the girl. Like, is she really hurt?
T. DOUGLAS: Go over there and listen before I beat you up.
ANNETTE DOUGLAS: Hello. How you doing? Here, the bottom - shut the door, Antoine.
T. DOUGLAS: I was born into a rough family.
A. DOUGLAS: I'm Annette Douglas, Tyrieshia Douglas' mom.
T. DOUGLAS: Both of my parents was on drugs.
A. DOUGLAS: I just was never there. Doing drugs, you don't stay home. You just go and flow wherever it is.
D. DOUGLAS: What do I remember?
T. DOUGLAS: I had to protect my brothers. I was like, Mom is doing good. She's working. I'm not telling them that our mom is a crackhead.
D. DOUGLAS: Best sister in the world, if you ask me.
T. DOUGLAS: Aw. I was out of control, which means if you said anything to me, I will break your face, and that was the end of that. The first memory that I have of ever seeing boxing was when we was living with my cousin, Patrick Washington.
D. DOUGLAS: Me and my brother were in the house one day. He tells us go get in the car. And y'all want to box?
T. DOUGLAS: Ma, she always used to take me shopping, go get my hair done...
D. DOUGLAS: Oh, yeah.
T. DOUGLAS: ...while y'all was at the gym. And I used to be mad. When I seen it, I was like, oh, my gosh. That is so amazing. You get to beat up people for free. So I asked him about it, maybe one time when I was younger, and he was like, no. Like his no was like, no. Like, you ain't about to do that. You're a girl. If it wasn't for me getting in trouble again, no would still have been his answer to this day.
D. DOUGLAS: And today we're here, and she's in the running to make history and be on the Olympic team.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: One, two three...
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: U, U, U-S-A.
(SOUNDBITE OF WHISTLE)
T. DOUGLAS: We're here in Oxnard, California.
GLORIA PEEK: We're here to get the girls prepared for international competition. Oh, I am Gloria Peek, one of the coaches for USA Boxing.
T. DOUGLAS: We train every five minutes. No sleep. No rest. We slipping punches while we're on the toilet.
PEEK: We're at a round-robin tournament meeting women from Poland, Russia, Mexico and from Germany. See, she's pissing me off.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Go on, seriously. You guys are elite athletes. Act like that. You're not just representing yourselves anymore. You're representing your country.
PEEK: Some countries have camps for women. Some train year round, three times a day. This competition is extremely important because it gives the girls something to gauge their performance by. Everything is in preparation for 2012 Olympics.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: (Singing) ...can you see by the dawn's...
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #4: I'm very excited about today because the boxing starts today.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #5: Who wants to see like, girls fight?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #6: Team USA all the way, baby.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #7: You're awesome and powerful.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Blue corner boxers, please glove up.
CHRISTY HALBERT: I'm Christy Halbert. I've been coaching on the international level since 1999.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #8: My mouthpiece? Right behind you?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: In the red corner, representing Team USA, Tyriesha Douglas.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)
T. DOUGLAS: When I get in the ring, what am I telling myself? Stay calm.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: ...blue corner, representing team Germany, Azizi(ph)...
T. DOUGLAS: Stay calm.
HALBERT: All right, Tyrieshia. Go do your thing, baby. Be you, all right? Be you.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)
T. DOUGLAS: This is my ticket.
HALBERT: Fast hands. Yeah. OK. Do it. Get it. Do it again. Boxing is not easy. If you are strong enough to stand up against all the odds that you face, there is something within you that is special.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #8: Stop.
HALBERT: All right. Good round.
T. DOUGLAS: Take my mouthpiece out.
HALBERT: She doesn't like your power. Can you see that?
T. DOUGLAS: If you can get hit and hit a person back, you have to have heart. You might get hurt. That's heart to me.
HALBERT: Exhale all the air out of your lungs. You're giving away some points because your hands are down and she's throwing a straight right at you, OK? So circle to your right and hit her with a hook on the way, all right? You can win this. You're only down two.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
HALBERT: Circle right with the hook. Circle right. Hmm. You're just not going to circle to the right (unintelligible). She's not going to do it. Left hand. Double it up.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Round of applause, please, for bout number 10.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Our winner, representing team Germany, Azizi Nemani(ph).
HALBERT: All right.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)
T. DOUGLAS: Didn't get the fight. Seventeen-15, that was the score. I still get to compete every day, so on to the next.
HALBERT: How would you like to build on this for tomorrow?
T. DOUGLAS: Do angles and circles and just keep my head on my shoulder. USA all the way.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #6: All the way, baby.
CALVIN FORD: What she have to really work on is herself. That's what I'm waiting on.
T. DOUGLAS: Calvin Ford is my coach who's also like a father to me.
FORD: Her first national champion medal, I have it. She gave it to me, you know?
T. DOUGLAS: He really treats me like a daughter. I call him all hours of the night, he answers the phone. I get mad when he don't answer the phone. So he's really like a father to me.
FORD: To make (unintelligible) two. I think she's drained today.
T. DOUGLAS: I'm tired.
FORD: She's looking flat. She's looking real flat...
T. DOUGLAS: Sometimes I doubt my dreams.
FORD: She's got a lot on her mind.
T. DOUGLAS: And I feel so low.
FORD: Six punches. Six punches that we just missed in that round because you wasn't feeling good. That's your fault. It sucks. Whatever is on your mind, it can't be on your mind now. You got to fight through that.
T. DOUGLAS: I'm not only doing this for me. I'm doing this for the world because if I can do it, the next individual can do it.
FORD: There you are. I like that. I can respect that.
T. DOUGLAS: Just to see someone get that far in life...that's all I want to show, is that you can overcome anything...
(SOUNDBITE OF WEEPING)
T. DOUGLAS: ...and be anything you want in life. And I am going to be that woman. I am.
FORD: That's it. She's done. Yeah, she's done.
T. DOUGLAS: I go home to my bed. It's just me, my heart, dreaming about being an Olympic gold medalist. And if that gold medalist dream don't happen, I'm still going to give and do and strive for what I want. Mm-hmm. Yup.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
CORNISH: Tyrieshia Douglas will compete in the first women's Olympic boxing trials later this month. Our story was produced for member station WNYC by Marianne McCune with Sue Jaye Johnson. You can see photographs of Tyrieshia Douglas in action at npr.org. You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.